Hopes for film ratings in China took a step back as a senior government official here equated the creation of such a system with legalizing the production of pornography.
Liu Binjie, director of China's General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP), said film ratings are "too sensitive" for the general public, and no such measures could be undertaken currently because China had yet to build a mature
and orderly film market, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Under the current circumstances, a film rating system equals legalizing the mass production of pornographic publications, he said.
Currently, films seeking cinematic release in China must be approved as suitable for all audiences, with cuts requested of scenes deemed too sexual, violent, or related to horror, magic and superstition.
The ultimate authority on a film rating system will likely be the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, which regulates the production and distribution of film and television, although GAPP may have some say over whether products would be
re-rated for home video release.
Censors reiterated the criteria for censorship saying that films with explicit sex and fear-provoking elements must be cut or revised before release.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said in a notice on its website that the move was intended to purify screen entertainment and create a more harmonious and "green" film environment for the public, especially
The censor asked nationwide studios not to produce films that depict hardcore sexual activity, rape, prostitution, nudity and the like. Vulgar dialogue or music and sound effects that had a sexual connotation were also restricted.
Content involving murder, violence, horror, evil spirits and devils and excessively terrifying scenes, conversations, background music and sound effects were on the list as well.
Other films that would be banned include those that:
Distort the civilization and history of China or other nations
Tarnish the image of revolutionary leaders, heroes, important historic characters, members of the armed forces, police and judicial bodies
Reconstruct crimes or reveal police investigatory techniques
Advocate nihilism, environmental damage, animal abuse and the capture or killing of rare animals.
China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) has submitted the final version of its Film Promotion Law to the State
Council and a film rating system may be implemented, according to sources from the ongoing 10th Seminar for Film Directors from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The system, which will have a comparatively simple "two ratings", may offer some films that fail to meet mainland censorship requirements access to the Chinese mainland audience.
The current system has a single rating and that has to be suitable for children of all ages
A total of 150 directors took part in the seminar.
A film rating system is very essential in China, Tong Gang, director of Motion Picture Bureau with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) was quoted as saying by a report on website of the Ministry of Culture.
A movie rating system in China has been discussed for years since the people have begun to enjoy an increasing number imported films and a booming domestic film market.
The director said the draft of the law had recently been finished and was submitted by the SARFT to the State Council, China's cabinet. He did not reveal that whether the NPC's annual session this year would review or approve the draft law.
Tong said he had supported a movie rating system in China when he was interviewed by a TV program in Singapore and he expressed a will to take Hong Kong's rating system as a reference during a visit to the SAR: However, my utterance has been
overexplained and even distorted by some media reports. A rating system in China will not mean that we will allow depictions of porn or violence in the movies for sales and screen.
A movie rating system cannot be implemented at the present time, a Chinese official has said.
Zang Zengxiang, deputy director of the Beijing municipal bureau of radio, film and television, said the bureau has been researching the feasibility of a movie rating system for several years. He said the research proved clearly that Beijing
couldn't carry out a movie rating system for many reasons but he didn't explain any of them.
Audiences in the capital have grown used to spending their money on censored movies. All domestic and foreign movies must be censored in order to receive public viewing licenses from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
Movies that show numerous sexual or violent scenes undergo large-scale deletions, an act that has been fiercely criticized as producing emasculated stories by some film industry insiders.
The fruitless struggle against censorship started in 2003 with the first movie rating proposal by Wang Xingdong, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Li Yu, director of the Berlin Film Festival's nominated film Apple , which went through censorship a total of five times for its sex scenes, told METRO she never believed a rating system could be implemented under the current cultural and
economical environment: We refer to censorship as an 'iron' rule, meaning that no one can move or dodge it . She added that the absence of a rating system took away the adult audience's right to watch adult scenes, and made it
impossible to prevent younger moviegoers from seeing films with violence and sexual content.
China's film censor, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said that an ongoing debate about a film classification system must end now and that China had no plans to introduce such a system as it was inappropriate.
We did a lot of investigation and research in both the overseas and domestic market, but decided that the movie classification system is not appropriate for the Chinese movie market currently, said Zhao Shi, vice minister of SARFT.
China is developing its own way to maintain the management of the movie market in a legal, scientific and effective way, and this 'own way' would be more suitable for China's domestic conditions and the reform of China's movie business, she
Many in the film business had hoped that a film classification system would be introduced as it would diminish the need for censorship.
As it stands in China, all films have to be cut so as to be suitable for all ages.
The censorship process also takes a long time giving pirates ample time to flood the market with good DVD copies of the movie for impatient filmgoers.
China is planning even more repressive movie censorship to bar anti-government sentiments and messages of
religious fanaticism from the screen, the government says.
The proposal, posted to the web site of the State Council. It is part of a draft film law now under consideration that would raise to 13 the subject categories not allowed. Previous bans cover too much smoking on screen, explicit sex and graphic
Under the proposals, China would bar incitement to resist or undermine the constitution and the promotion of religious fanaticism from films. A further proposed ban would bar any film from promoting illegal drugs or terrorist
Chinese film censors have been spouting about ludicrous reasons for cutting Titanic 3D.
Kate Winslet's famous bare-breasted life drawing scene has been censored in a bid to supposedly promote a harmonious ethical social environment , according to China's State of Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) classification
board. A SARFT official told Offbeat China:
Considering the vivid 3D effects, we fear that viewers may reach out their hands for a touch and thus interrupt other people's viewing. To avoid potential conflicts between viewers and out of consideration of building a harmonious ethical social
environment, we've decided to cut off the nudity scenes.
The nude scene was fully intact in the original Chinese screenings of the film in 1998.
Award-winning Chinese director Xie Fei has accused his country's censorship rules of killing artistic exploration in an open letter to authorities.
Xie, whose films include Woman Sesame Oil Maker , which won the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear prize in 1993 - has not made a film since 2000. He urged censors to give clearer rules on banned topics. Xie wrote that China's system:
Long ago lost its real social, economic, ideological and cultural significance.
It has only become a corrupt black spot for controlling the prosperity of the cultural and entertainment industry, killing artistic exploration and wasting administrative resources.
In his letter, Xie urged censors to:
Move from the current administrative review system to a rating system that allows for a self-governed and self-disciplined film industry, bound by legal restrictions and administrative supervision.
Currently, China has no film age rating system and films must be made suitable for all audiences. This means that many western films have been subject to cuts in order to be released. China also maintains a quota of just 20 foreign movies that can be
shown in cinemas.
China is wrestling with how to reconcile its extreme censorship system with the need to create films the world will want to watch.
Xie Fei, a professor at the prestigious Beijing Film Academy, recently sparked a debate on government control over the film industry when he called for replacing the country's censorship procedures by a movie rating system with ratings similar to those
used in the United States. Xie wrote in an open letter:
In the past few years, there were so many unwritten laws when censoring movies. Unwritten laws such as: 'ghosts are not allowed in contemporary settings,' 'extramarital affairs are not allowed,' 'certain political incidents are not allowed,' etc. The
censorship system [in China] is not defined by law, but done according to individuals.
Such rules are killing artistic exploration.
Beijing-based filmmaker Dayyan Eng responded saying that with more foreign films entering the domestic market, local directors struggle to compete. He blames it partly on the censorship system.
It's [Censorship] restricting what we can make. And I think that everyone has been finding out, especially this year, because the local films have been killed by Hollywood.
If Hollywood is allowed to make whatever they want, and actually most of them, the big budget ones anyway, are being shown in China, we are at a disadvantage because the system that's in place to regulate or censor this things is not the same for Chinese
films and for Hollywood films.
Eng's latest film, Inseparable , was the first wholly local production to feature a Hollywood star, Kevin Spacey. Eng says the censorship system influenced the way he wrote his movie.
When I first started out doing the story and writing the script and even up to shooting and editing it, in a way I have to censor myself a little bit. For example, there would be certain scenes I want to do, but I would think 'Maybe it is not going to
pass the censorship if I do it this way, if I go too far' so I tend to pull myself back little bit.
Although Chinese lawmakers recognize that domestic films are facing increasing pressure to compete with foreign films, they did not directly respond to Xie Fei's suggestions that a US-style rating system was better than China's censorship rules.
Similar proposals surfaced in 2007, after nude scenes in the Ang Lee film Lust Caution were cut before the film's release in China. But censors put an end to the idea when a senior official from SARFT said that such a system would not be appropriate
But now, with a growing number of actors, directors and producers sharing their views online, it has become easier for critical voices to contribute to the national discussion. Film producer Robert Cain has consulted Hollywood and Chinese studios on
co-productions since 1987. He says that by not establishing a rating system, the Chinese government is patronizing its public:
There is no need to treat everyone in China like a child or an infant that can be hurt by certain topics in movies. Everyone knows that people have sex, everyone knows that crime takes place and it seems very hypocritical to me that the government wants
to pretend, at least in films, that these things don't happen in China.
A Shanghai People's Congress delegate called on the local government to institute a film ratings system after complaints arose about a popular Chinese movie released earlier this month.
The Hong Kong-directed film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons , has drawn the ire of parents and media critics due to several scenes, including one in which humans were roasted alive in a cooking pot.
Some children complained about feeling sick to the stomach after watching the scenes, according to a news report on Shanghai Television Station.
Delegate Li Ming submitted a proposal last year suggesting that the local government create a ratings system that could serve as a model for the rest of the country. However, authorities did not directly reply to his proposal.
Local authorities could create a rating system based on those in Hong Kong or the US, said Shi Chuan, a professor of film studies at Shanghai University:
Along with ratings for violent and pornographic content, the system should also define other issues such as ethnic jokes, which might spark disputes over ethnic discrimination in China.
Chinese national film censors at SARFT turned down the idea of rating films in 2010.
Noted Chinese Film Director Feng Xiaogang brought up a taboo subject in a speech when he accepted the honor of director of year from the China Film Directors Guild. A video of the event recorded his speech:
In the past 20 years, every China director faced a great torment and that torment is [beep].
The censored word, as anyone reading Feng's lips can surmise, is censorship. Feng choked up with emotion before he spoke about censorship, and as soon as he did, the attendees in the ball room let out a collective whoa, breaking into
applause. Feng continued:
A lot of times when you receive the order [from the censors], it's so ridiculous that you don't know whether to laugh or cry, especially when you know something is good and you are forced to change it into something bad. Are Hollywood directors tormented
the same way? ... To get approval, I have to cut my films in a way that makes them bad. How did we all persist through it all? I think there is only one reason -- that this bunch of fools like us love filmmaking -- are entranced by filmmaking -- too
The video of Feng's acceptance speech has gone viral on China's social media. One post containing the video was retweeted more than 10,000 times on Twitter-like Sina Weibo.
China's film censor is planning to decentralize the censorship process for local movies, granting bureaus in the provinces the power to censor films.
As it stands, filmmakers face lengthy waiting periods for approval of their movies from the Film Bureau in Beijing (SARFT), which is part of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
The move is due to happen in April and is limited to local films. The censorship of imported Hollywood films, and co-productions with international firms, will remain under the control of the central Film Bureau in Beijing.
SARFT will retain responsibility for the censorship of national films, for censoring movies produced by central government and military film production companies, and the censorship of imported films and co-productions with overseas firms. It will
also be responsible for reviewing the films that are censored by the provincial bureaus, responsible for handling the film release license and responsible for the censorship of the film if the film production company has some objections to the
China has approved for cinema release the first film with gay principal characters. Film director Wanga nnounced on Weibo, a
Chinese version of Twitter, that censors had given Seek McCartney permission for a cinema release. He said:
This is a small step for the film department, and a big step for the members of the film industry.
The film, a Chinese-French co-production, centres on a secret relationship between two men, one Chinese and one French.
Fan Popo, an LGBT filmmaker and rights activist was note entirely convinced that this is a policy change. He told AFP:
The fact that this film can be released in theatres doesn't mean gay films in the future will be able to released in China. China's system for evaluating films is still very unstable, because the rules are very unclear. It depends heavily on the
individual censor's whims.
China will soon enact a new film censorship law banning content relating to preaching terrorism and mandating clearance of a film by three
'experts' and also demanding that film personalities abide by morality standards.
The law is currently being reviewed by China's legislature the National People's Congress (NPC). According to the bill, people working in the movie industry, including actors and directors, should strive for excellence in both professional skills and
moral integrity, and build good public images.
The draft law also stresses that film distribution companies and cinemas should not fabricate movie screenings and ticket sales or take other improper means. This followed reports that Chinese film firms tried to inflate revenues with fake shows to
inflate box office earnings to claim success.
The new law requires that films shall not contain any content preaching terrorism and extremism, and films shall be reviewed by at least three 'experts'.
Trigger warnings should be given to viewers, if films contain materials that might cause psychological or physical discomfort to viewers, such as minors.
China has passed a new film censorship law mopping up a few more prohibitions somehow overlooked by previous censorship laws.
the law bans content deemed harmful to the dignity, honour and interests of the People's Republic and encouraging the promotion of socialist core values .
The law claims that its aim is to spread core socialist values , enrich the masses' spiritual and cultural life, and set ground rules for the industry.
The law further forbids content that criticised the law or constitution, harms national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity, exposes national secrets, harms Chinese security, dignity, honour or interests, or spreads terrorism or extremism. Also
banned are subjects that defame the people's excellent cultural traditions , incite ethnic hatred or discrimination or destroy ethnic unity.
It is also illegal for Chinese firms to hire or partner with overseas productions deemed to have views harmful to China's dignity, honour and interests, harm social stability or hurt the feelings of the Chinese people .
Films must not violate the country's religious policies, spread cults, or superstitions , insult or slander people.
For a long time in China there have been numerous censorship rules about storylines that could or could not
appear in films. Stories with magical elements were strictly limited to taking place during ancient times, modern horror films depicting seemingly supernatural elements had to explain by the end of the film that the ghosts were just hallucinations
or tricks setup by crazed killers, exceedingly bloody or violent scenes were nowhere to be seen.
The entire process of getting a film made was also once strictly supervised at every step of the way from the beginning of production all the way to right before a film hit theaters. But 2017 provided some hints that things are relaxing in the
In March of 2017, the government introduced the China Film Industry Promotion Law. One aspect of this new law has been to make it easier for films to start production. According to new regulations films that do not touch upon national security,
diplomacy, ethnic minorities, religion, the military and other sensitive subjects, no longer need to hand in their scripts for approval prior to shooting.
A few example storylines have already surfaced that would not have been made a couple of years ago. In Hanson and the Beast , for example. The film takes place in modern times, yet tells the story of a zoo keeper who encounters and falls in
love with a fox spirit. Many Chinese filmgoers were surprised to see spirits and demons straight out of Chinese legends depicted as living in modern China. The film does spend a few minutes of sci-fi hand-waving to explain why these fantasy
creatures from Chinese legends actually exist.
Another example is the upcoming animated dark comedy Have a Nice Day , contains explicit violent imagery in its depiction of criminal gang activity. The film was selected to compete for the Golden Bear Award at the 67th Berlin International
Film Festival last year, but many moviegoers in China thought that the film wouldn't see a release in its original form since it depicted the dark side of Chinese society. The film wasn't quite in its original form though as a few lines of
dialogue were censored.
Perhaps China has realised that highly sanitised films are no good for selling to the west.
China's media censor is being taken to court over its view that homosexual activities are abnormal.
Following a crackdown on showing homosexuality in the country's media, a Beijing court has made the unusual move of accepting a legal challenge brought by a member of the public.
In the unlikely event that Fan Chunlin wins his case, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) would be forced to publicly clarify a regulation banning gay sex.
With China's courts, the media and the SAPPRFT all controlled by the ruling communist party, the chances of Fan winning the case are small. However, Fan's lawyer, Tang Xiangqian, said that he hoped that the legal challenge will raise awareness of
rights for homosexual people in the country.
A decision on the case is expected within six months.